Thursday, February 2, 2012

12 Sanity Saving Ideas When Traveling with In-Laws

Both my husband and I come from large families and we have been fortunate enough to vacation repeatedly with our respective in-laws.  Our children consider some of these trips to be their most magical because they had cousins to play with, doting grandparents, and loving aunts and uncles.  Who doesn't want to have a sister-in-law to laugh with while watching toddlers at the beach, to stay up late playing cards, or split the cost of a condo rental?  What about bonding with your niece over an ice cream, listening to Grandpa tell a story, or swapping children at the pool.  But once in awhile, even the most loving families can challenge your sanity--a poor choice of words, a fight between two cousins, not enough sleep, sibling rivalry (and I am not talking about the kids).  Here are 10 tips to help you next time you have a long weekend planned with the in-laws:

1--Repeat the phrase "inner peace."  Repeat the phrase "inner peace."  Take a breath.  Strike a yoga pose.  Absolutely try not to lose your temper.   Remember your happy place and go there in your mind (my daughter pictures herself petting our cat).  Count to 10.

2--Exercise.  This is especially helpful if you are angry.  Go for a run, swim a few laps, lift some weights, do pilates.  After 30 minutes sweating to your favorite music, you will feel like a different person.

3--Pack Emergency Chocolate.  My friend prefers Dove because the wrapper also have a positive message that lifts her mood.  I prefer peanut butter m&ms for a little emergency and fudge for larger ones. You may also want to pack some emergency foods for your kids--I consider a few dum-dum suckers essential for traveling with my three-year-old.

4--Nod and Smile (a lot).   Seriously, be the bigger person.  Try not to take a comment the wrong way or too personally (even if it was meant that way).  Instead, think of this as a learning experience.  Instead of a comment on your parenting, think of it as a tip on something to try in the future.  Give the other person the benefit of the doubt (they are likely under a lot of stress as well).  Be kind and patient with each other--after all you are family.

5--Repeat "I am a good parent; I am a good person."  When your kids are misbehaving and you seem to be unable to please a critical in-law, you may get your ego bruised and feel like a failure.  Then you become unhappy and defensive.  Reminding yourself that we all have bad moments and bad days (even on vacation) can give you some perspective.  Trust yourself, think about the "suggestions" from your family members, and remember, you are a good person.

6--Watch "Everybody Loves Raymond" episodes.  Laughter is the best medicine.

7--Keep your sense of humor.  Take events in stride.  Things will go wrong.  Plans will change.  Staying up late to play those family games will cost you the next day.  Kids get sick.  Laugh when you want to cry or shout and lighten everyone's mood.  You will teach your children a profound lesson and have good memories instead of regrets.

8--Bring an escape hobby.  Perhaps it is a good book or an app (mine is Tetris).  Maybe you need a craft, write a blog, or be a shutter bug.  Go shopping, collect seashells, text your best friend.  The list is endless.

9--Two Words--Passive Aggressive

10--Keep expectations low (especially for your kids).  With extended families, plans often change quickly or misunderstanding over schedules can jeopardize your most anticipated event.  With low expectations, a sick baby, a cancelled event, an attraction you can't participate in, too much time or too little time with extended family is not a problem.  You simply roll with the punches.  Try not to spend too much money on these type of vacations so your expectations can remain low.

11--Decide on a reward for when the vacation is.  Perhaps you deserve a manicure, a facial, or a new shirt.  Plan a lunch with your friends a few days after you get back (the ones that will give you tons of compliments).  Week long vacations may entitle you to a new pair of shoes or a massage.

12--Gratitude.  A little gratitude can change your perception.  Write a thank-you and mention a special moment that happened; bring a small goodwill gift for the other families and distribute them during an opportune moment.

Extended family vacations can be some of the happiest memories in your and your children's lives.  But remember a few tips if you find yourself losing your mind during these memorable vacations.

Disclaimer:  This list is meant to be generic and should not be considered a list based exclusively on my or my husband's in-laws.


  1. I thought this list was supposed to end at 10! Great ideas! (Even the extra 2!)

  2. My mistake. Never blog at midnight. Guess I should change the title.